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Schaer, Benson Bill to Expand Crime of Bias Intimidation in NJ Clears Assembly Panel

Bill Establishes Additional Penalties for Crimes of Bias Intimidation, Harassment, and Cyber-Harassment; and Bias Intimidation Motivation Damages

To strengthen New Jersey’s bias intimidation laws, legislation expanding statute on crimes motivated by prejudice against others based on race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability, or ethnicity was recently released by the Assembly Homeland Security Committee.

The bill (A-4833), sponsored by Assemblymen Gary Schaer (D-Bergen, Passaic) and Daniel R. Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex), would establish additional penalties for the crimes of bias intimidation, harassment, and cyber-harassment. Additionally, it provides a process to secure compensation for damages incurred due to bias intimidation. The bill will also amend the current statute to augment the definition of cyber-crimes to include swatting and cyber-harassment within the list of enumerated crimes.

The sponsors issued the following joint statement on the bill:

“This legislation builds upon our work to modernize existing laws to ensure every New Jerseyan is protected from harassment and intimidation. Technology has allowed our world to become more interconnected. It is essential that we do not allow it to become a tool to further bias intimidation. We must prosecute cyber-crimes to the same extent as any others.”

Under the legislation, additional penalties would be imposed for a conviction of bias intimidation, for each offense, in the amount of $2,000 for a crime of the first degree; $1,000 for a crime of the second degree; $750 for a crime of the third degree; $500 for a crime of the fourth degree; and $250 for disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense.

The penalties would be deposited into the Bias Crime Prevention Fund, established under the bill, for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting bias intimidation crimes; supporting community response to bias crime incidents; funding training and educational programs on bias crimes and diversity, as well as other programs designed to enhance public awareness of bias crimes and diversity.

The bill will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.